Aborigines fighting giant coalmine plans take land rights fight to the U.N.


Authorised representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council have submitted a request to the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) for urgent action under its Early Warning and Urgent Action procedure.


The tribe is fighting plans for one of the world's largest coalmines to be built on their vast lands in Queensland by the scandal-mired Indian company Adani.


A large majority of Australians don’t want the mine but the federal [right of centre] and Queensland [Labor] state governments support the plans.


'Authorised representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson (pictured), have submitted a request to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) for urgent action under the early warning and urgent action procedure. 

By turning to the U.N. the traditional owners are trying to head off the threat of native title extinguishment for Adani.

'The request to the CERD is in relation to Australia’s violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, for the Committee’s consideration during its upcoming 96th session in Geneva.

The complaint raises six violations of Australia’s international obligations under the Convention. (Link to the CERD submissionwanganjagalingou.com.au/request-for-urgent-action-by-wangan-and-jagalingou-people-to-cerd-31-july-2018/)

'The complaint was also sent to the Queensland Premier and Ministers in the Queensland Government, as well as the Foreign Affairs Minister and Federal Attorney General.

Adrian Burragubba, Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ Council spokesperson and cultural leader said,  “We are seeking the United Nations’ help to stop the destruction of our ancestral homelands, waters, and sacred sites by Adani’s massive Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project.

“The threatened extinguishment of our native title rights by the Queensland Government compels us to act. We have called upon the Queensland Government many times to rule out extinguishing our native title, a key measure in upholding our rights as Indigenous People. We have provided them with senior counsel advice that they do not have to extinguish our native title under any circumstances.

"The threat that W&J will lose our native title forever is real, we cannot wait around for a definitive position from them. This is why we have taken this urgent action,” Mr Burragubba said.

'International lawyer Noni Austin, who assisted the Wangan and Jagalingou to prepare their request for urgent action, said,
“The Wangan and Jagalingou are fighting for their very survival. If the Carmichael coal mine proceeds, the Wangan and Jagalingou face the permanent destruction of their ancestral homelands and culture, and the extinguishment of their native title rights in part of their lands.

“This is a violation of the Wangan and Jagalingou’s fundamental human rights, which Australia has an international obligation to protect. The actions of the Australian and Queensland governments and Adani Mining are responsible for this human rights violation.”

“The Wangan and Jagalingou have now been forced to ask the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to urgently protect their fundamental human rights because Australia has failed to meet its international responsibility to ensure that their culture and existence as a people can continue. Australia should be able to protect its peoples’ human rights without those people having to seek international protection.

“The Australian and Queensland governments are prioritizing a foreign company’s profits over the permanent loss of a people who have been connected to the land since time immemorial. Surely Australia is better than this,” Ms Austin said.

Linda Bobongie, Chairperson of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ Council said, “We have told Governments on many occasions of our profound grievance regarding the Adani Carmichael Mine and the manner in which a purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) was obtained. We are especially concerned with the Queensland Government’s role in enabling and participating in this.

“The flawed and discriminatory Native Title Act provides the cover for their intended action and allows them to hide behind the pretence of the ‘Adani ILUA’ to claim that ‘a majority’ of the W&J people have given their consent to the mine.

“Our right to say no, our right to self-determination, is not upheld by the Native Title Act and we are being coerced into accepting a deal with Adani that we have rejected four times”, Ms Bobongie said.

Murrawah Johnson, W&J Traditional Owners’ youth spokesperson said, “We are calling upon the Queensland Government to refuse to extinguish any native title of the Wangan and Jagalingou People for the Carmichael coal mine. And we demand State and Commonwealth Governments update their laws and policies to ensure they are entirely consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including our right to free prior and informed consent.

“The Wangan and Jagalingou leaders uphold the four decisions since 2012 of the native title claim group to reject any deal with Adani. We have opposed them in the courts and are prosecuting a case against the purported authorisation of the ‘Adani ILUA’ and its subsequent certification by the Queensland South Native Title Services body, and its registration by the National Native Title Tribunal.

“We are expecting a decision any time, and expect that no matter who is successful in the primary judgement, it will be appealed. We are clear that under no circumstances is the Government obliged to extinguish our native title. The State retains the power to refuse to extinguish our native title if it chooses”, Ms Johnson said.

Media Contact: Anthony Esposito
W&J Traditional Owners Council advisor






Related stories:

ABC News – Indigenous group takes anti-Adani fight to the United Nations claiming human rights violation

The Guardian – Native title system ’embeds racism’, Australia’s first Indigenous silk says



Indigenous group takes anti-Adani fight to the United Nations 

claiming human rights violation
By Josh Robertson

Traditional owners fighting Adani's proposed Carmichael mine in Queensland have urged the United Nations to urgently intervene by formally censuring Australia at a meeting in Geneva this month. ... '

Australia is better than this, lawyer says

California-based lawyer Noni Austin from Earth Justice, who helped prepare the UN appeal, said the mine "threatens to destroy the Wangan and Jagalingou's ancestral homelands and culture, and their very existence as a people".

"This is a violation of the Wangan and Jagalingou's internationally-protected fundamental human rights, and the actions of the Australian and Queensland governments and Adani Mining are responsible.

"The Wangan and Jagalingou are now forced to ask a UN Committee to urgently protect their human rights, because Australia has failed do so, in violation of international law.

"Australia and Queensland are prioritising a foreign company's profits over the permanent loss of an entire people - surely Australia is better than this."

The appeal to the UN said the Queensland Government has argued in the federal court that even if an Indigenous land use deal with Adani is ruled invalid, "it still has power to accept the purported surrender of our native title and issue freehold tenure to Adani at any time, thereby extinguishing our native title".

It says the native title system makes good faith negotiations with miners "almost impossible ... because the tribunal almost always allows the project to proceed, even over the Indigenous peoples' explicit objection".

"[It] has no authority to order royalty-type payments, many Indigenous groups feel compelled to agree to the project during the negotiation period so that they can be assured of obtaining at least some royalty-type benefit rather than risk a likely adverse tribunal decision," the letter states. ... '

For more of this article click here.





Doongmabulla Springs which is an artesian springs complex in central north Queensland
Experts say the Doongmabulla Springs are at risk of drying up completely under Adani's draft plan. (By Tom Jefferson (Lock the Gate))





First Indigenous Silk,McAvoy: Native Title system 'embeds racism', puts Traditional Owners under 'duress'

TonyMcAvoy says IndigenousPeople must 'resist, in whatever fashion we can' to protect land and culture

 Australia’s first Indigenous silk [senior barrister], Tony McAvoy, says the native title system “embeds racism” and puts traditional owners under “duress” to approve mining developments or risk losing their land without compensation.

McAvoy, speaking at a forum in Brisbane, said Indigenous people must “resist, in whatever fashion we can” to protect their land and culture.

His comments come as two legal disputes between traditional owner groups and the mining giant Adani reach a critical point.

McAvoy, a Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owner and a senior barrister with experience in native title law, said the system was stacked against Indigenous people. ...

McAvoy said the W&J people “are in a pitch battle in which we have taken a stand and said ‘no’.”














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